Managing director Ayo Akintola told OLN: “At the end of the financial year in January, where we ended up being was better than where we felt we were going to be. We had a fairly impressive Christmas, and a lot of the credit for that goes to the guys in the branches who went hell for leather for it and got our customers to come back.
“The beginning of the year, like for everybody in our sector, has been a bit slow. It is picking up gradually on a week-by-week basis, and then there are the summer events, the Jubilee and Olympics, which should be an interesting avenue of trading for us this year.”
It is nearly a year since European Food Brokers, the company behind Whittalls Wines, bought 37 Oddbins shops after the 128-strong chain went into administration on April 4, 2011.
Today the chain has 35 shops after two – in Oxford High Street and Stoke Newington – shut over lease issues.
Akintola put the new chain’s success down to having overhauled its pricing structure to make it “transparent” and “responsible”.
He said: “The days of a 10% off six or 20% off 12 mechanism which meant the individual bottle price was higher have gone. That is not to say we are not going to do promotions, but it is no longer the main anchor of the business – that is everyday value.”
But he said he is planning to grow the chain. “What’s important for us now is to stabilise the business to make sure it has a strong foundation, and then we can think about growing. What we don’t want to do is start expanding for the sake of expanding on shaky foundations.
“As and when the right locations come up we will go for that, but the shareholders haven’t said I have to grow to an estate of X amount, which puts additional pressure on the business.”
Oddbins has launched the oddbins.com website selling wine nationwide.
Akintola said the site aims to convey some of the fun and experience of shopping in one of the chain’s physical shops.
“The response has been phenomenally impressive,” he said.
“Buying wine should be fun – not everyone wants to know the sugar content or whether it came from a south-facing vineyard slope, although that information is there. Most people want to buy wine and be able to smile and have a chuckle at the same time, in the way they would if they went into any of our stores. We have taken that and put it into our website.”